Toni Kroos saved Germany, Belgium crushed Tunisia and Mexico cruised on World Cup Day 10. Let’s hand out some awards.
The 10th day of the World Cup produced another classic, as Germany saved themselves with a last-minute winner against Sweden. Earlier in the day, Mexico impressed again, this time against South Korea, and Belgium thrashed Tunisia in a wide-open game. Let’s hand out some awards.
The Germany Award For Could You Be More German? Germany
The record books had been dusted off. Jerome Boateng had been sent off. Joachim Low was having some sort of mental episode on the sideline. Germany were about to (probably) exit a World Cup in the group stage for the first time since 1938. Nope. Never mind. Toni Kroos, who is perhaps as close to the Platonic ideal of German footballing efficiency as the nation has ever produced, and who had nonetheless spent much of Saturday’s match passing the ball directly to Sweden’s players, won the game with an outrageously good free-kick in the 95th minute. If you found yourself thinking at any time during Germany’s match with Sweden about how uncharacteristic it would be for Die Mannschaft not just to go out, but go out like this — well, congratulations. You were right. It was such an uncharacteristic way to go out it became a characteristic way to stay in. I hope you’re happy.
The Yakubu Aiyegbeni Award for Misses: Michy Batshuayi
Belgium were already 4-1 up by the time they brought on Michy Batshuayi for Eden Hazard in the 68th minute of their 5-2 win against Tunisia. Batshuayi, undeterred by the meaninglessness of his cameo, somehow put together the most eventful performance of the match, racking up six shots, and an expected goals total well over two in his 25 minutes on the pitch. Batshuayi eventually got his goal in the 90th minute, with his fifth shot, but not before he entered the running for miss of the tournament, hitting the crossbar unmarked from four yards. Suffice to say Romelu Lukaku won’t be losing any sleep over his place in the starting XI.
The Everton Circa 2015-16 Award for Peak Roberto Martinez: Belgium 5-2 Tunisia
Belgium have now scored the joint most goals of any team in the tournament along with Russia (what?), but for all their thrilling attacking play against Tunisia, there was also plenty of suspect defending. This may have simply been the players losing focus against a team they were so much better than, but it also may have been a consequence of Roberto Martinez’s general, defense-optional approach to management. The Red Devils kind of-sort of pressed at times, but so lazily as to do more harm than good, while Kevin De Bruyne and Axel Witsel were easily bypassed in midfield with wing-backs Yannick Ferreira Carrasco and Thomas Meunier pushing high. These are the sorts of things you can get away with against Tunisia. These are not the sorts of things you can get away with against almost anyone else. Long live Roberto.
The Ronaldo Award for On-Brand Milestone Goals: Chicharito
Mexico are cruising at this World Cup, following up their shock opening win against Germany with an easy 2-0 against South Korea. Germany’s late win against Sweden means they still haven’t clinched a spot in the last 16, but things are looking good for Juan Carlos Osorio’s side. Their win on Saturday wasn’t the most exciting, but it did see Chicharito Hernandez score his 50th goal for his country, a scuffed, ugly-looking finish following an excellent first touch and some typically incisive movement. Same as ever.